We are now almost seven months into this pandemic. While the general economy continues to be in a bad state, there are some pockets of light, making the period a mixed bag for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
While many businesses have been negatively impacted, there are plenty of stories of everyday people turning into home entrepreneurs for the first time, and many others who are steering their businesses into new and unique directions, in reaction to the ‘new’ normal.
While our story is about one among the latter, before we get to that we must examine a problem the former are facing. Namely, as all these new CEOs are discovering – you have to market yourself to grab attention.
Now many do not have the resources to professionally market their products and services and are learning those skills on the job.
This is where the protagonist of this story, Rashmi Choudhary (41) enters.
A self-taught photographer, Rashmi was an in-demand photographer who used to cover events and programmes in the pre-COVID era. An entrepreneur herself, she started to notice the increase in home entrepreneurs who sell their wares online using product photographs to attract customers. But beyond the numbers, what caught her eye over time was that many of those entrepreneurs were putting up poor pictures of the product – out of focus, using poor lighting, not covering the product fully etc. – and that inspired her to do something about it.
What is the objective?
Everything is online as of now, and the first advertisement of your business is a social media post featuring a photograph of the product itself. And the quality of the photograph has a direct impact on the sales – the better the photograph, the higher the sales. This is the reason why large e-Commerce firms have entire teams devoted to creating product photographs. But for our small business owners – they are the photographer, telesales person, CEO, purchase manager, all rolled into one.
They are not professional photographers, and hence the quality of the photos end up being sub-standard and do not represent the product in the best possible manner.
Explaining this, Rashmi says, “Usually, someone who has no experience in clicking pictures will not look at how the light is falling, whether the picture captures the product in full, or if the colour scheme of the product seems altered. These are important aspects to consider while a product is being photographed,” says Rashmi.
Rashmi conducts workshops for such business owners to train and empower them with the right skills to shoot high-quality product photographs. In fact, she says her USP is that she shows how you don’t need expensive DSLRs or fancy equipment to create such professional-quality photos – a good smartphone is all you need.
What does the online photography course entail?
On day one the participant is introduced to some basic concepts, which include, introduction to photography, basics of photography, setting focus and exposure for mobile users, and even the various shooting modes, in case one uses a DSLR.
On day two, composition techniques, a discussion about lenses, the importance of grid lines, and various lens attachments for a smartphone is discussed. This is followed by day three, where the use of natural light, DIY backdrop hacks, and basic editing techniques is taught.
Once this is done, the participants are given an assignment, and keeping all the points they learnt in class in mind, are required to make a picture submission.
Who is Rashmi?
A popular photographer in Gurgaon and Delhi, Rashmi has a rather distinct style of working. Almost always clad in a saree one can see her clicking away at various events across the city. “This has become a sort of identity now. Saree and silver jewellery is how people identify me now, and I’m happy with that unique signature style of mine,” she says.
A marathon runner herself, in 2018, she accompanied a city-based running group to Ladakh, as the group’s official photographer, capturing some stunning shots of the marathon.
A mother of two, Rashmi’s time is spent between attending to their routines, conducting online workshops, clicking events, and on her edit table where she weaves her magic.
What are Rashmi’s credentials?
Rashmi is a visiting faculty with ISDI (Indian School of Design and Innovation) and since April 2020, has conducted online training programmes for more than 16 batches for ISDI and 8 on her own. “I’ve mentored more than 450 participants since the lockdown, and in a way, I think there has been a positive to the lockdown – the reach and need for people to attend this course have increased manifolds,” she says.
Being online has also eliminated the geographical differences and Rashmi says that she has had participants come in from the UK and Mongolia even.
Nehha Ashiith, a studio potter who runs a brand called AHFFI, enrolled for the online photography course with Rashmi two months ago and says, “There is a world of a difference between the product pictures I used to click and what I do now. Even though the basics of photography was taught to us in college almost two decades ago, revisiting the concepts and sharpening some skills has helped me.”
Having got a professional photographer to click some pictures for her earlier, she says, “In the past, it has cost me about Rs 8,000 to get ten products shot. Now, armed with basic knowledge, I am able to do this myself free of cost.” What one learns during the sessions are also ideas to style the products and present them better.
The biggest takeaway for Neha has been to retain the colours of the product as is, and she says, “Earlier my greens would look likes blues and vice versa and Rashmi was clear that if i am marketing a product, there is no way that there could be a discrepancy in the colour.”
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)